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Bethlehem, New Hampshire, United States
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05 March 2014

Thoughts about Skiing on Groomed Cross-Country Trails

Snowshoeing and Nordic/cross-country skiing are wintertime activities that I truly look forward to each year.  On any free day that is available to me, it's often a difficult decision as to which of those two sports to do.  However, at this time of year, skiing quite often wins out since ideal conditions for that activity are relatively short-lived, as compared to the snowshoe season which can sometimes last from late Autumn to early Spring.

We are blessed here in northern New Hampshire to have large tracts of land such as the White Mountain National Forest, as well as many other areas that are publicly available for snowshoeing and cross country skiing.  And so, in years past I've enjoyed skiing on these free of charge public lands.

This past Christmas, I was gifted with a small amount of money with the stipulation that it be used to purchase something related to skiing or hiking that would be new or unique for me.  And so, never having skied on groomed trails, I opted to spend my gift money to purchase trail passes at a few of the many Nordic ski centers that are near to my home in Bethlehem.  Arbitrarily chosen were: Jackson Ski Touring Foundation; Bear Notch Ski Touring; Franconia Inn X-C Center; Bretton Woods Nordic Center.

I must say that skiing on groomed trails is a bit like having your seat on an airplane upgraded to first-class!  It's a true luxury to ski along a wide corridor with a consistently even surface that is free of obstacles like downed trees, large rocks/boulders, tall grass and brush.  However, a luxury that I can do without are the machine-made tracks (see snapshot below).
Machine-made tracks along groomed cross-country ski trails
I "get it" as to the principle behind having these pre-set tracks, and I'm certain that many people find them useful.  However, for an avid bushwhacker like me who prefers to roam freely, staying on these preset tracks is more than I can bear!  Even from my early childhood days, I've always had a partiality to "color outside the lines".  So, my solution was to stay within the trail corridor, but by and large to simply ignore the machine-made tracks.

It was a new and a very enjoyable experience to ski on groomed trails.  And so, now that I've been introduced to this type of skiing (and now that my gift money has been depleted), it's quite likely that in the future I'll occasionally purchase trail passes using my own funds.  However, I still have a fondness for skiing the untamed and ungroomed corridors of the public lands, and that is where I'll probably continue to do most of my skiing.

As to which of the Nordic ski centers I enjoyed the most, each one is completely different which makes comparisons difficult.  All of these facilities provided views of land features that are familiar to me, but their trail systems provided unfamiliar views of these familiar places.  That in itself was a real treat and worth the price of admission!

For no particular reason (other than this is where I spent the final few dollars of my gift money), I've chosen to present a few snapshots taken from the Bretton Woods Nordic Trails.  This trail system winds through the scenic property of the historic Mount Washington Hotel, and also extends onward into the White Mountain National Forest.
Although the day was overcast, it was still pleasant to be skiing at the foot of the scenic Presidential Range
Nothing much to be said other than here is a snapshot of a mountain yurt that I visited along the way
A trailside snapshot looking across a snow-covered field toward the Crawford Notch area



Anonymous said...

My favorite paid place is Bretton Woods because they are the largest. Milan Hill State park is the least expensive (maybe $5 per person). You pay yourself because there are no workers. Great views can be had from the groomed trails. Great post as always. (JP)

1HappyHiker said...

Thanks for dropping by to read my blog! Also thanks for the tip about Milan Hill State Park. I’ve never skied there, but I’ll definitely check it out, especially since you’ve indicated that there are great trailside views!


Ellen Snyder said...

I do have a fondness for the woodland ski trails at Bretton Woods, although it has been years since we visited. Switched to snowshoes of late......but glad you explored and got us thinking again about dusting off those x-country skis.

1HappyHiker said...

Hi Ellen,

Many thanks for your comments!

X-C skiing can certainly add variety to wintertime fun. Perhaps you can get your skis dusted off and take them out for a spin while we still have some skiable snow! If so, I’ll look forward to seeing a blog posting about your adventure! :-)


Rita Wechter said...

Hi John,

Tim and I have enjoyed many ski outings on groomed tracks. Here in the western mountains we have an extra incentive to stick to the groomed trails—we know they are (usually) in areas pre-screened or cleared of avalanche danger!

I really enjoyed this post, John. And I like the fact that you provided links to four places to check out if we ever travel east for a winter ski vacation. Thanks!

1HappyHiker said...

Hi Rita,

Thank you for your comments!

That’s very interesting information about avalanche-danger as it relates to XC-ski trails in your part of the country!

Glad you enjoyed reading this posting. The links contained within my report only included the four XC-ski centers that I visited. Should you and Tim ever travel to NH and want to incorporate XC-skiing into your trip, a more complete listing of XC-ski centers can be found at the following link: And as you might suspect, there are numerous places in neighboring VT and ME as well.


Anonymous said...

Have been reading your blog for a couple a years, I really enjoy your attitude about hiking skiing etc. I have often wished you would talk more about your x-c skiing trips. I have skied all the areas you mentioned and have enjoy them all. A good resource for back country skiing is David Goodman's book; "Best Backcountry Skiing in the Northeast". Please keep blogging and skiing. Thanks Dan L

1HappyHiker said...

Dan, thank you for being a faithful reader of my blog over the years. And also thank you for the recommendation about David Goodman’s book about back country skiing in the Northeast. I’ll be certain to check it out. A book that I have in my personal collection is “Winter Trails: Vermont & New Hampshire” by Marty Basch, which has been a resource for a few XC-ski adventures.

Thanks again!